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28o                             THE GAY GENIUS

were wiped out. Currency had disappeared, following the govern-
ment's demand for taxes in cash instead of in kind. All the wealth
of the country was now concentrated in the imperial treasury, and the
government was spending it for wars with the north-west. Compared
with twenty years earlier, the population of the Hangchow district had
dwindled to forty or fifty per cent. The government itself was suffer-
ing too, for, as Su Tungpo pointed out, the receipts from the wine
monopoly had decreased from over $300,000 per year to under $200 ooo^
The state capitalists' trade bureaus had driven small business-men' out
of existence. The system of making the rich stand guarantor for their
poor neighbours had involved many of the well-to-do in ruin Un-
imaginable lawsuits and complications arose from the farmers' 'loans
Some people had, perhaps with the connivance of officials, borrowed in
other people's names. These other people either repudiated the loans or
were just non-existent. The government's files were a skein of tangled
unsettled confusion. It found on its hands thousands of rnorteaaeef
properties, some of which had been confiscated. Did the confiscated
properties cover the capital, or did they cover "capital and interest?
How was interest to be compounded? More people were put in iail for
buying property of which, in the confusion of lawsuits, nobody knew
who was the lawful owner. Everybody owed money to everybody else
The courts were too much occupied with cases of debts owed to the*
government to take care of litigation over private debts. Trade which
was always founded upon credit, was at a standstill because nobodv's
credit was good. At the same time, the corruption of bureaucracy was
unbelievable. Hangchow had to send an annual tribute of silks to the
Emperor. Some of the bad silks were rejected by the commissioners
who were interested only in collecting the tribute to the full amount3
The money from the rejected silks had to be recovered somehow* it was
up to the district magistrates to produce money from the rejected silks,
and these were forced upon the people at the price of good silks The
district magistrates were hard pressed by their superiors above and bv
the clerks below who thrived on the pasture ground of uncollected
debts as sheep thrive on the meadows.

The story of the indifference and procrastination of the central
government is amazing. Back in May 1090, Su Tungpo ha(j drafted a
proposal which he had submitted to the court for cancelling all debts*
awed to the government. With the coming of the new regime the
government under Szema Kuang had started to return confiscated
properties. But the original intention of the court was always thwarted
by the bureaucrats. It is not possible to go through all the quibbling
over technicalities which enraged Su Tungpo. Some bureaucrats mair>
tained that the court had ordered the return of confiscated properties
only of those who had submitted to a "forced" confiscation after the